Hyundai Santa Fe review
Winning Auto Express' Best Large SUV of 2013 award, the Hyundai Santa Fe offers tonnes of space and the option of seven seats
The Hyundai Santa Fe has become an increasingly popular choice in the family SUV class in recent years. The first- and second-generation cars helped establish Hyundai's reputation as a credible challenger to established models such as the Honda CR-V and Land Rover Freelander. This third-generation car builds on that legacy, with attractive exterior design, a high-quality interior finish and lots of space for up to seven people. Although it can't compete with the upmarket appeal of an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, the Santa Fe offers superb value for money, a generous amount of standard equipment and peerless practicality. And while it's not a fully capable off-roader, it's a very good choice as a large family car.
Our choice: Santa Fe 2.2 CRDi Premium 7 Seat
Smart and distinctive body lines set the Hyundai Santa Fe apart from its rivals on the road. You'll immediately notice the large trapezoidal chrome grille, aggressive angular headlights and kicking-up window line. As with most SUVs, large dimensions give it significant road presence, but it retains a sense of elegance that's usually associated with more compact cars. Premium challengers from Audi and BMW look better, but the Santa Fe trumps its sister model (the Kia Sorento) and chief rival (the Honda CR-V) in the style stakes. Inside, you'll find a good-looking dashboard that's let down in places by some poor-quality trim material.
Buyers can choose from a six-speed auto or six-speed manual gearbox, but there's only one engine available in the Santa Fe: a 194bhp 2.2-litre diesel. All that horsepower makes the Hyundai surprisingly quick for such a large vehicle, and with the manual gearbox fitted, it'll cover 0-60mph in a sprightly 9.8 seconds. The Santa Fe also boasts suspension that's been specifically tuned for UK road conditions, so occupants enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride at all times. This does result in some excessive body roll on twisty roads, however. Optional four-wheel drive gives excellent grip whatever the weather, and allows Santa Fe owners to undertake some limited off-loading. A notch gearshift action lets the Santa Fe down, and it can't quite match the sharp handling you get from a Mazda CX-5.
A five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty demonstrates Hyundai's confidence in the mechanical durability of its cars, and will also be an attractive feature if you sell the car before those five years of cover are up. This model of Santa Fe is too new to have featured in our Driver Power ownership satisfaction survey yet, but Hyundai itself was rated as the seventh-best brand in the 2012 edition, so good reliability is assured. In terms of safety, the Santa Fe was awarded the maximum five-star score by crash testing body Euro NCAP. It was also praised for its adult occupant protection, scoring a near-perfect 96 per cent in this area, as well as maximum points for the side barrier impact test. The car has a host of the latest safety technology, such as front side and curtain airbags, seatbelt reminders and electronic stability control. The optional four-wheel drive is a major safety feature on wet or icy roads, too.
The Santa Fe boasts three rows of seats - the first two offer plenty of space for adults, while the third row is ideal for children, and even adults on short journeys. This makes the Hyundai a credible alternative to traditional MPVs. You won't be short of boot space, either: the Santa Fe hold 969 litres with the seats in place, or 2,247 litres with them lowered. The seats can also be rearranged to suit the exact amount of luggage and number of passengers you're carrying – the second and third-row seats fold flat at the pull of a toggle. The Santa Fe is also an excellent choice for towing a caravan or trailer – it can pull 750kg unbraked or 2,500kg braked. A special Trailer Stability Assist system improves towing safety by limiting torque and braking individual wheels if needed.
No large SUV with a powerful engine is every going to be truly cheap to run, but the Santa Fe gives a good account of itself all the same, returning 40mpg fuel economy and reasonable CO2 emissions to keep your tax bill down. And while this model is more expensive to buy than its predecessor, extra standard equipment means it's still good value for money. Residual values should be good, too, thanks to the upmarket interior, attractive styling, seven-seat layout and general strong demand for family SUVs on the used market. As with all Hyundais, the Santa Fe includes a fully transferrable, five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, plus the dealer networks' servicing costs are low.